Working in Canada
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
The Canadian graduate labour market is very competitive, so it may be difficult to get secure work. One of your best chances of finding work is to look for jobs in the Canadian shortage occupations list which would allow you to enter Canada as a federal skilled worker. However you would need proven skills and experience in the job role in question to qualify for this.
Some professions are regulated in Canada, which may mean you'll have to get your academic or professional qualifications accredited to be able to work in that role in the country.
It is useful if you have contacts in the job market in Canada as networking is an important part of the job hunting process. Fluency in French may also be required depending on the part of Canada in which you want to work.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: service industries including transport, construction, banking, retail, tourism, healthcare and education; manufacturing covering paper, aerospace technology, cars, machinery, food and clothing; and natural resources including forestry, agriculture, mining and energy.
- Recent growth areas: healthcare and social assistance sectors, manufacturing, and the petroleum sector.
- Shortage occupations: medical professionals, including doctors, dentists, nurses, physiotherapists and audiologists; financial analysts and financial brokers; engineering, including civil, electrical and electronic, aerospace, mechanical and petroleum engineers. For a full list see Government of Canada: Federal Skilled Workers.
- Major companies: Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank Group, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal, Suncor Energy, BCE (telecommunications), Sun Life Financial, Canadian Natural Resources, Imperial Oil, CIBC, The Woodbridge Company (media) and the Canadian National Railway.
What’s it like working in Canada?
- Average working hours: the standard hours of work under the Canada Labour Code are 8 hours in a day and 40 hours in a week.
- Holidays: statutory holidays vary across provinces but there are nine at the national level. Annual leave is generally two weeks per year which increases to three weeks once you've worked with the same employer for six consecutive years.
- Tax rates: foreign workers are subject to Canadian income tax rates, although special regulations apply for newcomers (immigrants) during the first tax year. You will usually need to file one tax return a year. Rates of tax vary across provinces but are typically on a sliding scale from 15% to 33% depending on your salary. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
It is a good idea to apply for jobs in Canada while you're still in the UK as trying to get a job when you're in the country can be difficult.
As in the UK, the typical way to apply for jobs is with a cover letter and CV (commonly known in Canada as a résumé). Your CV should include the standard information such as your contact details, past employment, education and skills and should usually not be longer than two pages.
You don't have to supply references on your CV but you should be prepared to provide them at your interview. You might be expected to give work-related, academic and personal references. Make sure your application is targeted at each specific employer. Get more applications and CV advice.
The interview process is also similar to that in the UK with both one-to-one and panel interviews being used. If you're in the UK when applying for work you will usually have a phone interview. Make sure you research the company well before the interview and perhaps consider sending a thank you email afterwards.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
UK qualifications are generally well recognised around the world, but check with the employer or the relevant professional body prior to applying for work. If your profession is regulated in Canada you will need to get your academic or professional qualifications assessed. Some employers may also request it in non-regulated careers. More information is available from the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials.
Large Canadian private employment agencies are well established and reputable. You can find details of them at Yellow Pages Canada.
National and corporate members are also listed at World Employment Confederation, and a directory of member agencies can be found at the Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services (ACSESS).
- Postmedia Network publishes several English-language newspapers across Canada, including major metropolitan daily newspapers, such as The Gazette (Montreal) and the Vancouver Sun.
- The Globe and Mail and The National Post are the two main national newspapers.
- Nunatsiaq News is aimed at the Eastern Arctic region.
- Details of other Canadian newspapers are listed at Online Newspapers.
Many Canadian universities organise on-campus career fairs. Check university websites in the province or territory in which you wish to work to find out about events that are taking place. Career fairs are also organised by professional societies for your chosen industry – check their websites for more information.
Speculative applications are common in Canada. Networking is another important way of learning about new vacancies. On occasion, jobs may even be created for those who are able to demonstrate to a company that there is a need for their skills and experience.
Getting work experience
Work placements and internships
Internships may be available through international companies that have offices in Canada. Check the websites of companies you'd be interested in working for to find out more. A range of internships are also available in Canada through organisations such as:
- A student-run organisation, AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales), provides international traineeship exchange programmes, which offers work experience for periods ranging from 6 weeks to 18 months.
- Course-related placements starting in the summer and lasting from four weeks up to one year are available for undergraduates of science, engineering, technology and applied arts courses with IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience).
Competition is strong for teaching jobs in Canada and it can be difficult to secure work in this area. You may be able to teach English as a foreign language and a good network for this is TESL Canada Federation. More information on teaching in Canada can be found at the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.
The Canadian government offers the International Experience Canada programme to UK citizens aged between 18 and 30. If you want to travel in Canada and find temporary paid work while you're there (for up to 12 months) you can apply to the Working Holiday scheme.
BUNAC Work Canada is another programme which allows you to work in Canada for up to 12 months.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
Volunteering opportunities are available in Canada but you will need to make sure you get the right visa for this.
An overview of volunteering in the country as well as a directory of volunteering centres in each province is available at Volunteer Canada.
Do you need a visa?
British citizens do not need a visa to enter Canada. However, if you wish to work there you will need the correct work permit, even if the work will be unpaid.
If you are planning on working in Canada for a maximum of four years you are able to apply for a temporary work permit. In most cases, you'll need a written job offer or contract from your employer in Canada, as well as evidence that you meet the requirements of the job before applying for the permit.
It's likely that you'll also need written confirmation from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) that your employer can hire a foreign worker to fill the job. This is known as a positive labour market opinion (LMO) and it's up to your employer to get it. Once they have the written confirmation they should pass it to you so you can submit it along with your work permit application. You can apply online for the permit through the High Commission of Canada in the UK.
In addition to the work permit, your employer will need to make sure you're covered by medical insurance and workers' compensation. You will also need to get a social insurance number (SIN) and the form to apply for this can be downloaded from Service Canada. You need to then submit the form to a local Service Canada Centre once you're in the country.
Although it's possible for some people to get the work permit as they arrive in Canada it's strongly advised that you apply for it before you go. If you wish to work in Canada for longer than four years you'll need to look at getting permanent residency. Otherwise you will have to leave the country for four years before returning for another four.
More information on work permits and the varying requirements can be found at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
If you are not a UK national contact the Canadian embassy in the country where you are currently living about how to obtain visas and work permits.
How do you become a permanent resident?
If you want to live in Canada permanently there are a few different programmes you can apply to. The various ways include:
- Skilled workers and professionals: for those who meet certain education and work experience requirements. It's likely that your qualifications will need to be assessed and recognised in Canada.
- Skilled trades: for people who want to settle in Canada based on being qualified in a skilled trade.
- Business immigration: for investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed people wanting to start a business.
- Canadian experience class: for people who have at least 12 months of full-time skilled work experience (or part-time equivalent) in Canada in the three years before applying.
Only certain professions are considered for the above categories and there are different processes for working in Quebec. More information on the different categories and ways to apply is available at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Living in Canada
- Cost of living: as in the UK, there are considerable differences between living costs in different regions and particularly between the large cities and rural areas. Information on the costs of items and services in Canada can be found at Study in Canada: Cost of Living.
- Internet domain: .ca
- Currency: Canadian dollar
- Health: Canada's health care system, commonly known as medicare, is made up of health insurance plans which vary across provinces and territories. Canadian citizens and permanent residents are able to apply for the insurance which is paid through taxes. If you're working in Canada your employer must make sure you're covered by health insurance. If you do not have insurance through an employer, you should make sure you arrange private health insurance as treatment can be very expensive without it.
- Type of government: parliamentary democracy, federation, and constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, represented by the Governor General.
- Laws and customs: Canada is a proudly multicultural society, and all newcomers are expected to abide by its laws and respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which sets out the values, freedoms and human rights that Canadians live by. Law enforcement is shared by the federal and provincial governments.
- Emergency numbers: 911 for police, fire and ambulance services. The British High Commission in Canada, which is located in Ottawa, can help British citizens in emergency situations.
- People: British Isles origin 28%, French origin 23%, other European 15%, Amerindian 2%, other, mostly Asian, African, Arab 6%, mixed background 26%
- Major religions: Roman Catholic 42.6%, Protestant 23.3%, other Christian 4.4%, Muslim 1.9%, other and unspecified 11.8%, none 16%.